In the final days leading up to the Aug. 15 deadline to sign draft picks, much of the buzz from draft experts around the industry was that the Nationals were likely to lock up their top three picks: Anthony Rendon, Alex Meyer and Brian Goodwin — all Scott Boras clients.
Where there was a supposed gray area, experts from Baseball America and ESPN said, was with their third-round pick, No. 93 overall, left-hander Matt Purke. Between Purke’s injury history (he was diagnosed in April with bursitis in his throwing shoulder) and the fact that, as a player once considered a No. 1 overall talent, he’d come with a high price tag, many thought the Nationals would fail to add the draft-eligible sophomore.
For Purke, and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo, there wasn’t much doubt.
In a phone interview with the Washington Times, Purke said he was “definitely” confident they’d get a deal done and both sides were open and honest throughout the negotiation to work toward that point.
Purke will be in Washington later this week for a press conference and to officially sign his contract, which is a four-year major league deal worth roughly $4 million, and he’ll then get on his way to pitching. He has not been told whether he’ll report to Viera, Fla., or Single-A Auburn for the final two weeks or if he’ll pitch in the Arizona Fall League. All he knows is he’s ready to get going.
“I haven’t seen a batter since like June 6,” he said. “It’s been 2 1/2 months and quite honestly I’m tired of just throwing to a catcher. I’m ready to see somebody swing at it and see what I’ve got.
“I have not been clocked but I can just tell. I know my body for so long that I can tell when I’m feeling good, when I’m not, and these last times that I’ve been throwing have been really good and they’ve been really sharp so, I’m ready. I’m ready. Just give me a uniform and put me out there.”
Among the highlights from his conversation with the Washington Times, Purke admitted that he was never 100 percent healthy at any point during his season for Texas Christian University this year and said he’s been on a throwing program all summer. His stamina, velocity and command have all come back and he’s progressed to having thrown seven or eight bullpen sessions of 45-50 pitches in each session.
“Now, I basically have enough stamina to pitch two or three innings in a game,” he said.
He’s not putting a timetable on his arrival in the major leagues but noted that “Any baseball player is going to tell you that they’re ready now.
“That’s the way that I approach it. I’m ready to throw two or three innings now for whoever. I’m not the one that makes that call. All I can do is play to my best ability and let the upper management decide where I move and when I move but I will be ready whenever the time is called for me.”
Here is some more from the conversation with Purke. A full story will be up on the main site later today.
On why he felt Washington was the right place for him: “While I was doing my college recruiting process and I was taking my visits to schools, when I got to TCU, when I got around everybody and in the middle of it, I just kind of felt a sense of this is a place that I can feel at home with, I connect to these people.
“When me and my family traveled to Washington to do my medical and we were around the stadium and the field and the owners and everything, I got the same kind of feeling. These people are good people that I can connect to and can call this place home. That’s why I felt like this was a really good fit for me. Not only, do I feel comfortable with it but also the things that they’re doing now with the prospects they’re bringing in and the talent that they have coming up, this team is going to be very, very good in a short amount of time. They’re going to be somebody that other teams are going to have to deal with. I knew that I wanted to be a part of that and be involved in that kind of team, that kind of organization that’s on the rise.”
On the health of his left shoulder: “I was never 100 percent healthy during the season. The closest I got was my last start in the (NCAA Regional). I was maybe about 85 percent there. My shoulder was completely healthy but my body wasn’t the way I usually am. As I’ve gone through the summer and got to the end of the summer I’m back to my normal form of a year ago.
“I just didn’t have enough time to get my arm strength and get my body back from sitting out. I didn’t have enough time before the draft. I ran out of weeks and we ran out of games to play when we lost our regional but I was close. I was sound and healthy with my shoulder and everything but I just wasn’t 100 percent on the field with everything that goes along with pitching — my command and sharpness and everything like that. I just needed a little bit more time. Now that I’ve been able to throw all summer, I’ve been able to get it back.
On why he didn’t consider pitching in the Cape Cod Baseball League or another organized summer league to prove his health: “I knew the best thing for me was to be home and to work out at Tomball Sports Medicine center. I’ve been there for the last four years and the things that I do there really help me get prepared for seasons. I was preparing myself all summer for either fall baseball with TCU or the remainder of the season with Washington. I knew that best thing for me was to go home and to work out and build strength, not only my body but my arm strength as well. That way I can be a full product at the end.”
On the importance of getting a major league deal: “I think (both we and the Nationals) agreed pretty well about it. The reason it was important to me was I know how I pitch and I know that this last season I didn’t look like myself. I knew that I would return to my form and that I would want to be there soon so that’s what we discussed about it.
“They came and saw me throw and they saw what I can do. They’ve been watching me since I was a sophomore in high school. They said that they’ve seen me as I’ve grown up, they’ve seen how I played and they know that I will be ready. It really wasn’t a big fighting point. I think we both knew going in that’s what we needed and that’s what was going to happen.”